Surfing requires balance, instinct and plenty of patience, not to mention a lot of practice. However, first-timers can have as much fun learning the basics as experts have mastering the waves, especially if the amenities on land are first class. Here, Indagare member and passionate surfing enthusiast Kathy Thomas rounds up her ten favorite surfing destinations that not only cater to all levels of experience but also boast five-star luxury resorts. Contact Indagare for assistance planning a surfing trip. Our travel specialists can match you with the right destination based on your interests and ability.
1. Punta Mita, Mexico
This beachfront village on the Pacific offers an array of surfing conditions and a luxurious home base in the Four Seasons Punta Mita, which offers instructors and lessons for both beginners and pros. The experience begins on a panga boat, which whisks guests to the top swells along the Nayarit shore.
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The country’s relatively undeveloped coast, with its world-class surfing opportunities, is best for families with older kids or couples seeking unspoiled landscapes. Its top luxury resort, Mukul, features a long stretch of isolated beach with a large break, and offers wonderful instructors, board rentals and daily boat trips.
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3. Biarritz, France
Founded by Emperor Napoleon III and his wife, Eugenie, the seaside resort of Biarritz boasts long, beautiful beaches and a bustling surfing scene, as well as a hippie-chic vibe reminiscent of Santa Barbara. Biarritz has two main surfing beaches: The Grande Plage, which stretches out in front of the lavish grande dame Hotel du Palais and Plage de la Côte des Basques, further south, with rougher swells. The city’s most renowned surfing school, Hastea, is set up at the latter beach with a variety of courses, from beginner to expert, including classes for kids. Indagare can arrange specialized surfing lessons, French language sessions and excursions to nearby St. Jean de Luz or San Sebastian in Spain.
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4. The Hawaiian Islands
The Hawaiian islands have long been known as surfing meccas with world class breaks and a relaxed surf culture. Oahu boasts famed Waikiki Beach in the south and a wild coast presenting daring breaks in the north. At Waikiki, the waters are often crowded but easy for beginners to master, while the reefs, located a long paddle out, are better for more experienced surfers. Diamond Head has gentle surf that is less-crowded than Waikiki’s. And to the west is the grand Four Seasons Ko’Olina, from which several beaches are easily accessible. A day trip to Oahu’s North Shore, where the pros battle with intense breaks like Pipeline and Backdoor, is a must, even if it’s just to watch.
Maui is often referred to as Hawaii’s most luxurious isle, with the upscale community of Wailea and the lavish Four Seasons Maui on its calm southwest coast. Longtime surfers will want to head north to the wide, wind-thrashed beaches favored by local and international talents, including the legendary Hookipa and Jaws surfing areas located around the boho town of Paia. For the less experienced, gentler swells exist along Ka’anapali and the western coast, where Maui’s surf schools are located.
Kauai, with its combination of dramatic terrain, comprising jagged green cliffs and rugged jungle, and a laid back aloha spirit, is perfect for families in search of classic Hawaii. Hanalei Bay’s stretch of picturesque beach, offering surfing suitable to all abilities, is easily accessible from the luxurious St. Regis Princeville resort.
5. Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara offers sophisticated living combined with a gorgeous coastal landscape, sandwiched between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The expansive coastline offers incredible surf breaks that cater to both beginners and experts. Aspiring surfers should head to Padaro Beach, which has an excellent surf camp and shop, while experts will be challenged at iconic Rincon Point. The toniest coastal address is the Four Seasons Biltmore, which boasts a sprawling collection of red-tiled Spanish colonial buildings just above Butterfly Beach with access to the oceanfront Coral Casino Club.
6. Cabo, Mexico
Cabo’s wild coastline may deter swimmers, but the unruly swells are a surfer’s dream. At the luxurious One & Only Palmilla, the surf instructors can help surfers of all skill sets learn new techniques, and although you can’t surf on the property, just a short drive away are reef breaks and hidden spots known only to locals. Farther east along the shore of the Sea of Cortez, amazing surf provides world-class rides, especially in the summer.
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7. Sumba, Indonesia
An island in the Indonesian archipelago, Sumba boasts unspoiled, natural beauty and is revered for its phenomenal surfing. The island’s only resort, Nihiwatu, originally was built as a collection of rustic bungalows for surfers lured by its globally coveted, exclusive wave break, “The Wave,” that can only be used by 10 surfers at any time. Today, the soulful property is the gold standard for atmospheric and immersive luxury travel, offering 29 stylish villas, authentic interactions with Sumbanese people and adventure activities amidst 560 acres of lush jungle and coastline.
8. Costa Rica
The Central American country has a variety of wave breaks, making it an ideal spot to learn to surf. The five-star Four Seasons Costa Rica faces a calm bay where beginners can hone their skills by paddle boarding on small swells before moving out to bigger breaks under the guidance of the hotel’s surf instructors. More advanced surfers can take a boat to Witch’s Rock and Ollies Point to try their skills on the celebrated breaks there. Further south, on the rugged Nosara coast, the Surf Simply camp (surfsimply.com) is an incredible week-long program that offers personalized, expert instruction with two sessions per day in the water, video coaching, yoga classes and a day ofadventure excursions.
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9. Montauk, Long Island
Within driving distance of New York City, this town on the eastern tip of Long Island is known for its relaxed surf scene and breaks like Ditch Plains. Other beach breaks exist in the Hamptons, but unlike those in Montauk, these depend on the sandbars, wind and season. There are plenty of great surf schools in the area, offering lessons and surf camps suitable for all abilities.
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For surfing in a truly far-flung destination, this South Asian island country, with its aquamarine waters and secluded atolls, is unparalleled. The Four Seasons Kuda Huraa has an incredible location near the region’s best waves, ranging from small ones in shallow lagoons perfect for novices to fierce swells for adrenaline junkies.
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